Colorado Avalanche: Learning from the Great Gordie Howe

Mar 31, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Fans hold up a sign for Detroit Red Wings former player Gordie Howe during the first period against the Ottawa Senators at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 31, 2015; Detroit, MI, USA; Fans hold up a sign for Detroit Red Wings former player Gordie Howe during the first period against the Ottawa Senators at Joe Louis Arena. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports /

Colorado Avalanche fans may be a little disconcerted to see this is an article about a former Detroit Red Wing. However, Gordie Howe deserves our respect, and I’ll tell you why.

If you don’t know by now then I imagine there are certain internet avenues wholly unavailable to you, but Gordie Howe passed away last Friday morning at the age of 88.

Nadia Archuleta, MHS editor, said that I could wax enthusiastic for this article if I wanted to, and I don’t know about that level of fanatic for Gordie Howe, but he is definitely a hockey player — and man — worth remembering.

Ye ol’ “Gordie Howe Hat Trick” — a fight, a goal, and an assist in a game — takes on different meaning now that he has gone to a better place, so sayeth the old adage.

Indeed, I’m writing this (Thursday) the day after Gordie Howe’s funeral service (Wednesday), in which an estimated 900 showed up, including hockey greats like Wayne Gretzky, Bobby Orr and Steve Yzerman.

It was open to the public, and people streamed in wearing his jersey.

The No. 9 and the name Howe was still walking on Wednesday, and it will continue to walk forever in Detroit because that’s Hockeytown, and that’s just how it is there.

But, how can I bring this back to the Colorado Avalanche? Well, for one, Avalanche players and fans could certainly learn from Gordie Howe.

What Colorado Avalanche Players and Fans Can Learn from Gordie Howe

Let’s just take a moment to plaster some quotes by Gordie Howe to this post, just so we can get an idea of the type of hockey player and man that he was.

"American professional athletes are bilingual; they speak English and profanity."

"The first time I met Wayne Gretzky… he never said anything back."

"You don’t need gloves, just stitch me up. And, in fact, don’t go very far because the guy who did this will be coming in soon."

"People say I’m henpecked. Well, let them say it."

So, Gordie Howe was a tough mudder who wasn’t afraid to open his mouth, fight, or humble himself next to men who shattered his scoring records.

Oh, and he respected his wife — as henpecked implies.

He was also a staunch leader, and stout loyalist. He played 25 seasons for the Detroit Red Wings in a total of twenty six NHL seasons across five decades (1940s to 1980s), winning the Stanley Cup four times with the Wings.

And so, when we think about the Avalanche and the team they have now, they are certainly missing a leader of the caliber associated with Gordie Howe.

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But, Avalanche players don’t need one leader, they need a voice that will make them all lead.

Gordie Howe wasn’t successful all on his own — he had the help of Ted Lindsay, as well as many others.

Just like Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy weren’t successful on their own, they had the help of Peter Forsberg and Adam Foote, along with others.

Gordie Howe was a captain, and fought with a tenacity and effort that was never matched by anyone on the ice, and may never be matched again.

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He led his team in that fashion, and has made Detroit one of the greatest hockey dynasties in history.

So perhaps Avalanche fans are looking for a leader on the current team, someone whose voice will echo throughout the locker room, and lead his brothers into battle every night, and perhaps that’s what they need.

But, Gordie Howe’s example transcends the necessity of one, and instead places emphasis on the necessity of many.

The Colorado Avalanche need to find a way to become a team unified in the voice of one effort, one goal, yet that effort and that goal must become part of the band of many.

Gordie Howe knew how to do this in life, and his funeral testifies that his legacy in life was resilient and is resilient enough to still bring people together.

A little old time hockey video to send you guys on your way:

There’s some other really good Gordie Howe tribute videos up on YouTube as well.

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Anyway, if Avalanche fans and players can learn anything from his legacy, it’s that he gathered a city and made it Hockeytown, he gathered his brothers and made them the Detroit Red Wings, and most importantly, he gathered himself night in and night out to make sure that he was always ready to play his hardest.

Here’s to remembering a legend, and hoping that the Avalanche find a way to ensure that the legacy Gordie Howe left behind — a legacy made potent by unity — becomes a part of their identity.